News / USA

New Natural Gas Pipeline Into NYC Is Volatile Issue

New Natural Gas Pipeline Into NYC Is Volatile Issuei
X
May 31, 2013 9:20 PM
New York City is crisscrossed with underground natural gas pipelines, many decades old, supplying cooking and heating gas to homes and businesses. But safety and environmental concerns about a new gas pipeline being built into Manhattan’s west side have given rise to protest, and calls for New York to move more quickly to sustainable forms of energy. VOA's Carolyn Weaver reports on the situation.
New Natural Gas Pipeline Into NYC Is Volatile Issue
Carolyn Weaver
New York City is crisscrossed with underground natural gas pipelines, many decades old, supplying cooking and heating gas to homes and businesses. But safety and environmental concerns about a new gas pipeline being built into Manhattan’s west side have given rise to protest, and calls for New York to move more quickly to sustainable forms of energy.

The high-pressure Spectra Energy pipeline, set to begin operating in late fall, travels under parts of New Jersey, Staten Island, and the Hudson River, and enters Manhattan next to a playground and park. "This is an incredibly high-population area and it’s insane what they’re doing," said Kathleen Thomas, one of several hundred protesters who rallied in Manhattan recently to call on President Barack Obama to withhold support for all new fossil-fuel pipelines.

Thomas noted that the Spectra pipeline is similar in design and pressure to one that exploded in 2010, destroying a neighborhood in San Bruno, California. Eight people were killed and more than sixty injured in the disaster, which left a crater several stories deep and 122 meters wide. Thomas’s group, United for Action, and other opponents fear that a similar accident, or terrorist attack, could kill hundreds. Among the entities that have filed suit to stop the pipeline is Jersey City, New Jersey, across the Hudson River, where the pipeline travels under schools, hospitals and chemical plants.

Advocates and detractors

New York State and city officials, including New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, say the pipeline poses no threat. "I’m not an expert on this pipeline or pipeline technology, but we have pipelines running under half of America. If they were that dangerous, we’d have a lot of fires," he said.

Deputy Mayor for Operations Caswell Holloway, a former commissioner of environmental protection, seconded Bloomberg.  "We reviewed it for safety. We reviewed it for environmental impacts. It is being built to exceed the highest-rated standards," he said, adding that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which has ultimate authority, also approved the project.

But opponents say pipeline accidents happen almost weekly in the U.S., although mostly in unpopulated areas. Claire Donahue, who founded a group called the Sane Energy Project to oppose the Spectra pipeline, said that energy companies themselves pay for environmental impact studies, and that regulations are so lax as to be meaningless. The requirement for this pipeline is that it be inspected only once every seven years, she said.

"There are 88 inspectors for 2.5 million miles of pipelines. The primary way that pipelines are inspected is to walk over the route looking for dead grass. I’m not making that up. We’re in a place, a cement area, the pipe is under a river, it is under a highway, it is under sidewalks. You tell me how they are going to know that it is leaking," said Donahue.

Health, environmental concerns

Pipeline opponents also are concerned about radon, a radioactive gas that is more concentrated in natural gas extracted from shale formations deep underground. Radon decays in about two weeks’ time, but opponents say it will not have more than a few days to diminish before reaching New York. Spectra Energy maps show the new pipeline carrying gas mainly extracted from the nearby Marcellus Shale formation in Pennsylvania and New York.

Al Appleton, a former New York City commissioner of environmental protection, charged in a recent forum that city and state officials have been negligent in not investigating the issue. "The radon level in that natural gas could be as much as 20 to 60 times higher than the levels to which we’re currently exposed, which means a huge spike in your risk for things like lung cancer," he said. He noted that most New Yorkers live in apartment buildings constructed for gas-stove cooking only.

An analysis commissioned by Spectra Energy, however, found that the pipeline's gas will not bring dangerous levels of radon into New Yorkers’ homes or businesses. The study, by biophysicist Lynn R. Anspaugh, said that a study cited by opponents overestimated the amount of radon at both wellheads and after transmission. It also noted that the lead federal regulatory agencies involved, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Energy, both concluded there will be no health hazard to users of the natural gas brought by the pipeline. Spectra Energy statements also have said that the pipeline will be operated with multiple safeguards, including robotic checks of the pipeline, and that it poses no danger either of explosion or radon.

The lawsuits brought by opponents will be heard in federal court in the fall, right before the pipeline is set to begin operating. Meanwhile, opposition is building to other new natural gas infrastructure proposed for the New York area, including another high-pressure pipeline into the seaside Rockaway neighborhood, which was badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy. Opponents say that global warming is responsible for storms like Sandy, and that remaining deposits of gas and oil must be left in the ground, in order to stave off even greater climate disasters.

You May Like

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

Euro falls after European Central Bank announces a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program More

Saudi King’s Death Clears Succession Route

Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef is Saudi Arabia's New Crown Prince-in-waiting More

Cloud Hangs Over US Counterterrorism Efforts in Yemen

Sources say resignations of Yemen's president, government has left US anti-terror operations 'paralyzed,' yet an American military 'footprint' remains More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: MikePB from: New York
June 03, 2013 8:22 AM
For a preview of how Spectra Energy’s track record will play out with the NYC pipeline, talk to folks who live with Spectra Energy today. Despite platitudes about safety, Spectra Energy does not have a best-in-class track record that might build confidence among NYC residents. Spectra Energy has a long, documented record of problems. It includes violations, explosions and fines (including a 15 million dollar federal fine). For example, much of the pipeline gas will come from Spectra Energy’s underground storage reservoir called Steckman Ridge, in Bedford County, PA, about 2 hours from Washington, DC.

This facility is a 12-billion cubic feet underground natural gas storage reservoir with a 5,000 horsepower compressor station, 13 injection/withdrawal wells and related pipeline infrastructure. It has had an ongoing series of problems since it went online in 2009.The most recent incident occurred in March. Residents were so concerned about loud noise (which lasted 2-3 hours) and what appeared to be smoke coming from the compressor station they called 911.

How did Spectra Energy react to its “stakeholders” concerns? Ms. Hanley (quoted in this article) called from nearly 500 miles away in the greater Boston area to dismiss residents concerns: "Nothing was released. There was no smoke. No incident.” The next day, Spectra Energy was forced to flip-flop because residents kept pressing for answers. As it turned out, there was a release of methane and other hydrocarbons; but so far the company refuses to publicly say how much or exactly why this happened. For more information, check out this well-sourced link: http://www.spectraenergywatch.com/blog/?p=1807


by: Stephanie Low from: NYC
June 01, 2013 1:05 AM
Unfortunately, industry assurances about pipeline safety have often proven overblown, not to say downright untrue. Quoting from Spectra Energy’s statement in the article above that “the pipeline will be operated with multiple safeguards, including robotic checks of the pipeline," those robotic checks refer to a Pipeline Inspection Gauge (PIG) that investigative reporter Greg Palast exposed 18 months ago as having been industry-tailored NOT to report cracks, leaks and corrosion expensive to repair as well as likely to cause explosions. You can check out the story at this link: http://www.democraticunderground.com/1002241517
Not a reassuring possibility when Spectra’s own record, according to the government agency PHMSA (Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration), includes “17 inadequacies in its pipeline safety operations and procedures” and has been found to be ”inadequate in a number of areas, including continuing pipeline surveillance, emergency plans, and welding procedures.” http://www.naturalgaswatch.org/?p=744
How did this terribly dangerous project get so far along the way without official oversight and investigation? Will our city officials act in time to eliminate the possibility of explosion and death in Chelsea?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youthi
X
Julie Taboh
January 23, 2015 11:08 PM
Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.
Video

Video Secular, Religious Kurds Face Off in Southeast Turkey

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has been rocked by violence between religious and secular Kurds. Dorian Jones reports on the reasons behind the stand-off from the region's main city of Diyarbakir, which suffered the bloodiest fighting.
Video

Video Kenya: Misuse of Antibiotics Leading to Resistance by Immune System

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story from Nairobi.
Video

Video Solar-Powered Plane Getting Ready to Circumnavigate Globe

Pilots of the solar plane that already set records flying without a drop of fuel are close to making their first attempt to fly the craft around the globe. They plan to do it in 25 flying days over a five month period. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video How Experts Decide Ethiopia Has the Best Coffee

Ethiopia’s coffee has been ranked as the best in the world by an international group of coffee connoisseurs. Not surprisingly, coffee is a top export for the country. But at home it is a source of pride. Marthe van der Wolf in Addis Ababa decided to find out what makes the bean and brew so special and how experts make their determinations.
Video

Video Yazidi Refugees at Center of Political Fight Between Turkey, Kurds

The treatment of thousands of Yazidis refugees who fled to Turkey to escape attacks by Islamic State militants has become the center of a dispute between the Turkish government and the country's pro-Kurdish movement. VOA's Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video World’s Richest 1% Forecast to Own More Than Half of Global Wealth

The combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent will overtake that of the remaining 99 percent at some point in 2016, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam. Campaigners are demanding that policymakers take action to address the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid